While ambient-electronic producer Deborah Martin has issued a number of exceptional solo albums, she 's also an avid collaborator; in fact, her discography lists as many joint projects as solo releases. And while her own albums certainly reveal deep connections to other cultures, the collaborations bring that dimension even more explicitly to the forefront. That's never more apparent than on the earliest of the three releases covered here, 1998's Ancient Power, which Martin produced with Sequoia Records artist Steve Gordon (Sacred Earth Drums). The project grew out of their association with Edgar Perry, a White Mountain Apache of the Eagle clan in Whiteriver, Arizona who not only shared with the duo his tribe's history and culture but appears on the recording, too. Complementing the instruments played by Martin and Gordon—she's credited with Taos drums, deer claws, turtle rattles, acoustic guitars, Ocarina, keyboards, stones, wood, and percussion, he with native flutes, guitars, rainstick, mandolin, drums (Taos, tongue, and Udu), and percussion—are the vocal and instrumental (Ceremonial medicine bell, Taos and tongue drums) contributions Perry makes to two of the eight tracks.
The recording's Native character is evident from the outset when the “Spirit of the Mountain” uses flutes, shakers, tribal drums, and breathing choir to conjure Ancient spirits and a timeless aura; at the same time, synthetic mist is sprinkled over the material via Martin's keyboards, a move that in turn lends the material a contemporary ambient sheen. During “Coming of the Wolf,” the lonely warble of the Native flute and muffled pound of the Taos drum reinforces the earthy quality established by the opener, with this time long-time Spotted Peccary associate Howard Givens adding keyboard textures to the mix. One comes away from Ancient Power not only captivated by its rich sound design but impressed by Martin and Gordon's sincerity. While the material exudes an understated, modern-day ambient character in its sound design and sensibility (boasting arrangements heavy on acoustic guitars and synthesizers, “Earth Dweller” and “Moon Over Cloudless Sky” could just as easily have appeared on a Martin solo album like Under the Moon as Ancient Power ), it also pays respectful homage to Perry and his tribe in the seamless manner by which it so genuinely integrates elements representative of Native culture. It's perhaps significant that the album's longest setting, “Wind of Spirits,” is the one that most prominently features Perry, whose vocalizing and drumming helps transform the piece into an especially potent incantation.
- Ron Schepper, textura.org